Ruby Valley in the High Desert

Tracy knows how much I miss the ocean (heck, if you could be anywhere in the U.S., might you pick the beach?), so he found me a hot spring, which is close enough when you’re out in the desert.

We’re parked right outside the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which is rare marshland in the high desert of Nevada, in the valley of the Ruby Mountains.  The brochures talk about a lake, but it’s really a string of marshes divided by dikes. But it does the trick: Tracy has added to his bird list significantly here, including the Greater Sage Grouse (close to endangered) and a Golden Eagle.

The Ruby Mountains are covered in sagebrush and small Juniper trees, and they’re, indeed, gorgeous, especially at sunrise and sunset. The peaks and valleys aren’t hidden by tall trees so they stand out sharply, like rugged jaw lines. This time of year there are swaths of red and yellow flowers among the crannies. 

We’re camped at a National Forest campsite where we must be the only non-hunters; everyone else is looking for deer and shooting waterfowl.  No one’s had luck with the deer so far, but Lucky Me saw a buck this morning while walking Banjo.  He was so loud bounding through the sagebrush that I thought he was a hunter and almost called out. 

There are also jack rabbits (woohoo, my first!) and coyotes that we can hear at dusk, and magpies all around our campsite.  

I never can get a good picture of inside the Airstream to show what amazing views we have once we’re driven inside by the cold, but here’s my attempt this morning around sunrise.  The marsh is to the right.

And the hot spring!  There are several small ones on BLM land right outside the refuge.  We drove a few miles along a rutted dirt road to find the one Tracy had found online, and the bumpy, uncertain drive was worth it.  

We had the place to ourselves; indeed, we had the world to ourselves except for a camper we could see as the tiniest dot way off in the desert.  We didn’t know this would be the case, so we didn’t bring Banjo, or snacks or cold beers, alas. So we loitered as long as we could stand it in the hot water and then skedaddled. 

I’d love to go back today with supplies to stay longer, but I bet someone else is there, being the weekend (on our way in we’d passed someone leaving, and on our way out we’d passed someone arriving, and there were plenty of beer cans and bottles around as evidence it’s popular (Tracy picked them up, along with a suspicious pair of underwear which he used his long-read pincers to grab). So that one soak will have to last me. 

I’ve been using this campsite as downtime, not getting dressed for the day until lunchtime, not going with Tracy on his hikes or birdwatching drives.  It’s been go-go-go for us since we hit Yellowstone, which is the way Tracy likes it, but I get burned out.  Plus, next up is a routine doctor’s appointment near Salt Lake City, with a new doctor, which I am dreading, because. So I’m soaking in the quiet desert right now and remembering the feel of that hot hot water all around me, the sun reflecting off the green surface on the inside brim of my hat, as if I were fully immersed.  

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